We have sequenced the region of the Acanthamoeba castellanii ribosomal RNA transcription unit which encodes the mature small subunit ribosomal RNA (SSU rRNA). It, like the SSU rRNA coding regions of Euglena gracilis and kinetoplastids, is approx. 30% larger than those reported from other eukaryotes. The extra nucleotides are present in highly variable regions of the rRNA genes. Direct sequence analysis of the corresponding variable regions in the rRNA of A. castellanii and E. gracilis demonstrates that the extra nucleotides are present in the mature rRNA; no post-transcriptional modification of the rRNAs occurs to reduce them to a size more typical of eukaryotes. The extra elements present in the rRNAs of these two organisms are not homologous; they have independent evolutionary origins.